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The ailing U.S. economy is likely to take center stage later Wednesday when U.S. President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, confront each other in their first debate of the 2012 presidential race.
Domestic topics are on the agenda at this debate, which will be televised nationally from the University of Denver in the Rocky Mountain state of Colorado. Two more debates, focused on foreign policy, will be held prior to the November 6 election.
Obama likely will be asked to defend his economic policies, which have not resulted in the robust recovery voters had hoped for when he took office in January 2009.
Romney will be tasked with explaining what he would do differently to create jobs and cut the unemployment rate, which has stayed above 8 percent for nearly all of Mr. Obama's term.
New polls show Obama is entering the debate with a slim lead over Romney or tied, both nationally and in several so-called battleground states that are expected to decide the election.
Romney, a retired multimillionaire businessman and former governor of Massachusetts, has lost ground since a secretly recorded video surfaced earlier this month that showed him telling wealthy supporters that 47 percent of Americans, who will vote for the president "no matter what," pay no taxes and consider themselves "victims" entitled to government support.
Both men spent the day Wednesday preparing for the debate. Both were expected to do a walk-through of the auditorium prior to the big event.
Both campaigns attempted to take advantage of inadvertent remarks and new revelations Tuesday.
The Romney campaign said Vice President Joe Biden's remarks at a campaign rally in North Carolina that middle income Americans have been "buried" by the anemic U.S. economy over the last four years was an admission that the Obama administration's economic policies have failed.
The Obama campaign called attention to a published report in The New York Times that suggested that Romney's overseas financial holdings have made him a profit and allowed him to reduce his income tax rate.
Wednesday's debate at the University of Denver also will be devoted to domestic issues such as health care. The second and third debates are scheduled for October 16 and October 22.
Analysts say the debates could be Romney's best and last chance to revive his campaign and change the direction of the race.
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